An Iran-backed Shia militia led by a designated terrorist has recently been spotted operating an American-made M1 Abrams tank, the Long War Journal reported on Monday.
In a recently released video montage showcasing the various groups within the Popular Mobilization Units, a collection of Shia militias in Iraq, the flag of Kata’ib Sayyid al Shuhada (KSS) can be seen prominently perched on top of an Abrams tank. The KSS, which is active in both Iraq and Syria, is led by Abu Mustafa al Sheibani, who was named a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the U.S. government in 2008 for attacking American and British forces in Iraq.
Though it is uncertain where and when the video was taken, the Long War Journal speculated that it was filmed recently in the central Iraqi province of Salahadin, where KSS has been fighting the Islamic State. KSS has also published videos from Iraq’s Anbar province showing its forces operating American military vehicles. It likely got the tank or tanks from the Iraqi army, which operates alongside the militias.
KSS is not the only Iran-backed group to use an M1 Abrams tank. The Hezbollah Brigades, a designated terrorist organization, also displayed an M1 Abrams tank and other U.S.-made vehicles in its possession last year, as did the Badr Organization.
KSS is affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force, which is described by the Long War Journal as “the Iranian government’s special operations branch which foments and supports Islamic revolutions in the Middle East.”
The tank bearing the KSS flag can be seen at the 16-second mark in the video embedded below.
In How Iraq Became a Proxy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which was published in the December 2014 issue of The Tower Magazine, Jonathan Spyer and Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi explained that KSS and other militias are forthcoming about their ties to the Islamic Republic.
Besides these three important actors, other Iranian proxies exist, including Saraya al-Khorasani, Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada, and Harakat al-Nujaba’, all of which have also deployed in Syria. These groups make no attempt to hide their ideological affinities with Iran, featuring portraits of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei on their social media sites and “martyrdom” funeral banners for slain fighters.